The myth of male invulnerability as described by Donelly Kenyon (1996,p. 448) In the book Gender Stereotypes and the provision of services to sexually assaulted males is the belief that there are certain crimes that are gender specific, that men cannot be victims of sexual, domestic or emotional abuse, that victims are considered weak in strength and soft in physique. Gender and biological roles in society give credence to this. Men are socialized to be providers or givers and women are receivers or ‘’takers’’.
Biologically, the male body is stronger and is said to wade off danger faster and better than a woman would, this is why men are regarded as "protectors" and women are said to need protection. This belief is not entirely true as there have been variations especially in today’s world where women are taking up roles that were formerly limited to the male gender and vice versa. We have female truck drivers, engineers, athletes as there are male nurses, nannies, hairdressers and models. However, this is not without prejudice. Men who take up these vocations are considered weak, or not man enough, while women are said to be intimidating.
When it comes to criminal activities, there is also a disparity. Men are likely to partake in crimes that exert power and control like armed robbery, arms dealing, sexual assault etc, whereas women are mostly involved in theft and prostitution. This is why one would prefer to employ a female help to watch over the children to reduce chances of sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery. Of course this has proven to be erroneous with the various cases we hear today.
When it comes to sexual crimes, the belief that men are more liable to be predators, stems from the sexual role they play. Men are said to have a higher libido than women and take the upper hand, setting the pace, leading and directing and often times initiating the sexual activity. Women on the other hand have a lesser libido and take the role of the "receiver", they appear to be less threatening because they do not readily initiate these activities and are physically incapable of forcing it on another.
Does this mean a woman is incapable of raping and a man cannot be a victim of rape? Literature tells us for this exact reason that men are vulnerable to the crime. It is under reported because of the social stigma that results from it. Men assume a certain position in society that does not consider or allow vulnerability. Thus, a lot of men are taken advantage. Some at a young age by an older woman and they speak of it with pride. The fact that this sexual assault is seen as an induction to sexual activity to hormone crazed teenagers further fuels the risks of it.
This reaction is however different when the culprit is a man because while the former retains the man’s position as the "giver" the latter portrays him as the "receiver". In fact, such persons are feared to be gay having been introduced to that sexual preference. This form of rape is especially common within prison walls and boys boarding schools and is an open secret no less. Whichever the case, rape or sexual assault against men by men and women is just as traumatic as any other type of assault. Victims are forced to find solace some other way having been pressured by biological and cultural expectations not to seek help or report it.
The law doesn’t help matters at all. Rape against men is hardly given attention within this corridor, and it would interest you to know that various countries don’t call it "Rape". It has been called buggery, forced anal-intercourse, forcible indecency and as you can imagine, perpetrators are given a lesser sentence than when the charge is Rape. In 2005, the persecution of a woman for Rape after she was caught giving an oral to a sleeping man in Norway led some countries to revisit their laws as this was blown up for good reason by the media. Nigeria is yet to do anything about it though but how many men will actually come forward to report? Social stigma must first be dealt with and this can be achieved by adopting the following measures.
i) Understanding the reality of male rape: There is a theory known as the just world theory developed by Melvin Lerner in the 1960's. He asserts that members of society are often plagued with false reality. They choose to see the world one way when it is in fact another. Cultural beliefs are justified over individual beliefs and anything that goes contrary is socially excluded and stigmatized. Members are conservatives and do not believe or accept that society has transformed for the worse.
People who fall victim to sexual crimes are thought to have done something to deserve this treatment. Here, a female rape victim would be blamed for wearing a short skirt or dress to lure attackers and a male victim must have gay tendencies that made him vulnerable to his attackers, no straight man can be raped. This theory brings about a lot of stigma. This belief is adopted to feel safe and maintain a just world reality which is indeed not the case anymore. Understanding the existence of male rape, will certainly ensure one is protected against it or does not stigmatize victims of it.
ii) Not making a joke out of it as we wouldn’t when the crime is against a woman. This is often the case when one hears of such cases. People would laugh, be nonchalant or make insensitive remarks about it.
I understand how rampant the crime is against women, but this should not neutralize the fact that it affects men and has dire consequences. In fact in explaining the victim-offender effect, male sexual assault victims are more likely to become abusers themselves if proper psychological treatment is not given. There is a need to teach the child positive sexual behavior so they do not become sexual deviants.
iii) We ought to treat the male child with as much care as we would the female child in sex education. This education should not be limited to handing out a box of condoms or telling the child not to have sex until marriage as is traditionally done. It entails teaching the male child that the sexual organs are private and no one should abuse it. Enable an environment where the child can easily speak about it. Let them know the dangers of this reality so they can report cases of being touched inappropriately. Be careful of who baths him, cloths him or lies next to the bed with him because the male child can be sexually assaulted too and by both gender. The female help can molest the female child, same way the male help can molest the male child and vice versa.
IV) In this same light, men should be taught safety tips. One must be careful whom they accept lifts from, and what paths they follow at night. Do not assume the impossibility of sexual danger because you are a man. Perpetrators attack for various reasons. In Zimbabwe, the ‘’sperm bandits’’ are a notorious group of female rapists who drug and abuse men, then extort sperm for ritualistic purposes. Women who rape men also do so to gain power and sexual gratification through emasculation, this is very harmful emotionally, psychologically and physically.
V) Generally, providing a listening ear is very therapeutic to one who has been abused but individuals will only speak if they know they will not be stigmatized. We must consciously watch our verbal and non-verbal responses to cases like this, because the person next to you might be a victim and your reaction would help or prevent their healing process.
It is terrible that there are no specific laws on this in Nigeria but cases can be reported under assault. The abuser will be exposed, apprehended and hopefully the crime will be discontinued, nobody will be abused by that person again and it would be because you did something about it. R.I.S.E
© R.I.S.E Support Group Network 2017
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